Tales from the Trail

Prospects for healthcare up, insurance stocks down


It may be a gamble, but at least one tell says that President Barack Obama and Democratic leaders in Congress may win the big bet they have made to push healthcare reform legislation over the finish line, despite public doubts and Republican opposition.

Just look at the healthcare provider stocks.  Health insurer shares were lower on Thursday in afternoon trading after the White House announced Obama would meet with several House Democrats in an apparent  bid to lock in votes.

“It looks like he’s really getting involved at the very micro level, and I think that probably shows the administration is really going to put everything on the line for this initiative,”  Morningstar analyst Matthew Coffina told Reuters correspondent  Lewis Krauskopf in New York.   ”They’re kind of going for broke at this point.”

“The prospects of healthcare reform are up. Stocks are down,”  said Tim Nelson, a healthcare analyst with First American Funds. “These stocks go up and down with the prospects of healthcare reform.”

With the help of some well publicized health insurance premium increases, Democrats  have decided that they will be better off  in the November congressional elections having passed the sweeping healthcare overhaul than letting it die. Many rang the death knell for the reform effort after Democrats lost their supermajority of 60 votes in the Senate when a Republican won a  special election in liberal Massachusetts.

Dean, Scarborough claim health insurance stocks hit 52-YEAR high. Really?

Numbers can be tricky. And when trying to make political points in Washington, they probably should be checked twice (like Santa’s list of naughty and nice). USA-WEATHER/SNOWSTORM

So when Howard Dean, an influential liberal Democrat, and Joe Scarborough, a conservative Republican commentator, both used the SAME figure to make the SAME point that the Senate healthcare bill would mainly help insurance companies, it caught our attention.

First came Dean on NBC’s “Meet The Press,” saying:  “In this last week of unseemly scrambling for votes, we have committed to go down a path in this country where private insurance will be the way that we achieve universal health care.”